Congress considering new mental health provisions for military

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 20, 2015)-- There's a new effort to make sure health care providers don't miss the warning signs when our Hoosier Heroes need help with mental health care.

The new legislation, authored by Sen. Joe Donnelly, builds on his suicide prevention bill passed by Congress last year.

The Jacob Sexton Act, named after an Indiana soldier who took his own life, requiring mental health assessments for all service members.

“Now what we’re doing this year is making sure that the talent is there, the providers are there to do the mental health assessments to be able to provide the care our service members need,” said Donnelly.

The father of another soldier who committed suicide said Donnelly’s proposal was the right thing to do to protect our Hoosier Heroes.

“It’s so important and that’s really all we have as parents of fallen soldiers is that we can do something to help future soldiers,” said Gregg Keesling, who son Chance took his own life in Iraq. “That’s how I get through the loss of a son.”

“They have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Donnelly. “They’ve lost a member of their family who served all of us.”

“Even though I know he was in trouble… I did not understand what my son went through from his first deployment, being blown up, coming home, seeing the drinking, not understanding what it meant and I think what we’re trying to do now is to train mental health professionals to recognize this better,” said Keesling. “it’s going to be a long journey.”

“We lost over 400 service members last year to suicide,” said Donnelly. “It is a scourge. It is something we have to end and something we want to bring down to zero.”

According to Donnelly’s office, the new ‘Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care Package’ was just added into this year’s national defense bill, which now moves to the full Senate for its consideration.

The defense bill has been signed into law for 53 consecutive years, according to Donnelly’s office.

Watch the video above to see Donnelly and Keesling's comments and watch the video below to see our entire interview with Donnelly, including his thoughts on health care coverage expansions in Indiana and policing technique issues that have come before Congress in recent weeks.